Saipan officials have expressed new concerns over the future of Imperial Pacific International’s (IPI) local IR development following the shock termination of 80 foreign construction workers late last week.
Termination of the workers came just six weeks after IPI was granted a two-and-half year extension for completion of Imperial Pacific Resort through to 28 February 2021 after failing to meet its previous 31 August 2018 deadline. According to reports, the workers were taken by surprise on Friday when they were called into the IPI office and served termination letters stating they would be provided seven days’ severance pay before being sent back home.
Although IPI’s actions were legal under the terms of the workers’ contracts, officials have questioned the timing amid rumors that another 100 workers are set to be released.
“It seems now that IPI got a two-and-a-half-year extension for completing the hotel casino project in Garapan, they have decided to lay off both local and H-2B workers,” Rep. Edwin Propst told local media.
“Rather than getting more workers to complete the casino construction, they are now cutting back on labor. Why?
“With all of these local and H-2B workers being laid off, are we really supposed to believe that IPI will complete the hotel casino construction project within two-and-a-half years?”
“These terminations of local and H-2B workers, the recent multiple resignations of high-ranking executives at IPI and the termination of Pacific Rim are all telltale signs that the casino is having serious problems.”
Propst noted that IPI had previously cited a lack of construction workers among the primary reasons for failing to meet its 31 August 2018 deadline, asking, “What’s their excuse going to be now? Do we honestly believe that IPI is going to complete the casino hotel by their construction deadline in 2021 after laying off hundreds of skilled workers?”
Responding to criticism over the weekend, IPI said it was in the process of adjusting its construction workforce based on labor demands while prioritizing US workers over foreigners.
“The purpose of the reduction is to adjust the level of labor supply based on the demand of the construction project,” the company told the Saipan Tribune.
“The adjustment is in line with effective workforce planning and efficiency improvement of the project. IPI plans to hire local construction workers who are released by Pacific Rim (IPI’s former contractor) to ensure their continued employment.”
However, Vice Chairman of the Commonwealth Casino Commission Joe C. Reyes admitted there was growing frustration over IPI’s actions.
“All I want IPI to do is pretty much to get its act together and get its casino project done,” he told Marianas Variety, adding that “a commitment is a commitment.”